Thursday, November 23, 2017
Colleges

State journal: Jim McElwain takes blame; Deondre Francois out 4-7 months

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GAINESVILLE — Florida coach Jim McElwain knows fans are unhappy with his offense, and they're directing a lot of their frustration to offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.

"Put the ire towards me," McElwain said Monday. "I mean, I'm the one responsible for it. I plan on getting it fixed."

But not with any wholesale changes, at least not this week.

Redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks will again start at quarterback, ahead of grad transfer Malik Zaire. In his debut, Franks was 5-of-9 for 75 yards in Saturday's 33-17 loss to Michigan before being relieved by Zaire.

"I thought he handled it well, and he's going to be a good player," McElwain said.

McElwain will reevaluate the position after this week's game against Northern Colorado.

McElwain does not seem interested in taking play-calling duties away from Nussmeier despite the team's consistent offensive struggles.

UF's 11 rushing yards are the fewest in the country. Entering Monday, only four teams in the country had fewer total yards than UF — and all were Group of Five schools that opened against top-12 programs Auburn, Clemson, Penn State and Oklahoma.

"We need to make sure that the guys that need to touch it, touch it," McElwain said. "Those things need getting called."

The offense will have at least one more body this week with four-star WR James Robinson returning from a marijuana suspension. McElwain didn't have an update on the nine Gators indefinitely suspended for misusing university-related financial cards.

Bulls blocking struggles

Eight quarters into his ultra-hyped senior season, USF QB Quinton Flowers' dual-threat dominance has been brandished only in spurts and stretches.

He's averaging 267.5 total yards, roughly 50 fewer than he was at this point last season (318.5). At times, his dazzling improvisational skills have been stymied by a tendency — or edict — to remain in the pocket. At any rate, his next complete game of 2017 will be his first.

That will occur when his blocking improves, coach Charlie Strong said.

"It's all about just protecting the quarterback," Strong said on Monday's American Athletic Conference coaches teleconference.

Flowers already has been sacked six times. On Saturday, the Bulls managed only 153 rushing yards against a team bent on taking away the deep ball. While that speaks to blocking (or the lack thereof), Flowers also struggled with misfires, miscommunication (including a throw behind WR Temi Alaka in the red zone) and drops.

"When we need to run the football, we've got to open up and that offensive line has got to move people off the line of scrimmage so you can establish the run game, (which) opens up the pass game for Quinton," Strong said. "When that doesn't happen, then you try to drop back and throw it and you have to protect him."

"It's not only Quinton, it's just making sure we get our offense going and everybody on the right track."

FSU's Francois out 4-7 months

Florida State QB Deondre Francois is scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery today to repair a torn patella tendon, coach Jimbo Fisher said. The injury — suffered in Saturday's 24-7 loss to No. 1 Alabama — will keep him sidelined for 4-7 months, which could have him back in time for spring practice.

As expected, Fisher said true freshman James Blackman will start Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe, ahead of early enrollee Bailey Hockman and redshirt junior J.J. Cosentino.

Blackman will be FSU's first true freshman to start at the position since Chip Ferguson (1985, against Miami).

Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com.

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